The Gift of the iPad

Submitted by Lori Holbrook, mom to Hannah and creator of the ChatBag

Hannah with her iPad

Words can’t always describe what the iPad has done for us! We say all the time it has given Hannah a voice, some independence, and a sense of humor. When it all comes down to it, though, it truly is a gift. We take for granted communication and socializing with others everyday. When you are given a child with special needs, sometimes with multiple disabilities, those “gifts” that we take for granted, walking, talking, writing, etc., are sometimes missed and we appreciate the little milestones of development all the more.

Hannah’s gift came in 2010, at 7 years of age. Hannah was born with Down Syndrome. Later she was diagnosed with Autism and Apraxia. Hannah early on used Sign
Language and PECS as her main communication. These tools were great for Hannah to express her wants and needs in her early years of development. However, we were not aware of how much more Hannah had to say. When Hannah was given the iPad, through her school district, she immediately showed success with it. Using the app, Proloquo 2 Go, Hannah has gone from single photos to multiple screens and folders to communicate with others. Over the last 3 years we are now able to hear Hannah’s voice. The voice that allows her to say where she wants to go, tell people her name, hobbies, pets, ask people questions, order her own food, and even joke around.  Yes, joke around!  Hannah, on occasion, will joke with us by asking to go out to eat at 11:00pm, knowing that it is too late. Once that button is pressed, we immediately hear her giggle because she knows the answer will be “no”.  How cool is that!  A true treasure of watching and hearing your daughter be silly, with her AAC device.  Or maybe that sassy side might appear.  Sometimes we have heard Hannah say “no” when we ask her to tell people her name with her iPad.  Then that contagious giggle follows.  Joking, being sassy, or just requesting, the iPad has changed all of our lives forever.

Besides communication, the iPad has shown us, through using various apps, that Hannah can write letters (iWrite Words app and Paint Sparkles app) when a normal pen and paper were just not motivating or easy to do. Hannah can demonstrate to us that she does understand some colors, numbers, and other educational items that aren’t fun to show with flashcards or workbooks. The use of a picture schedule (Choiceworks app), for when those times of transitioning tend to be challenging, always seems to work when the verbal commands don’t.  It truly amazes me, how any tablet or computer, will motivate an individual to do more work or follow directions.  The possibilities seem endless with this amazing device.

We always hope and pray that Hannah will develop more words that she can communicate herself, with her own voice. Until then, this “gift” of the iPad is not taken for granted, but cherished, because it has given Hannah freedom to be a little girl in a world that functions everyday around communication. It has given Hannah a voice which allows her to CHAT with the world!

Feel free to contact Lori with any questions: Lori Holbrook chatbag@hotmail.com

An update on the ABLE Act – October 16, 2013

As you may already know, the ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) Act was introduced in 2012 and with it’s passage would allow families to be able to set aside funds in a tax-free savings account to provide for costs associated with healthcare, employment, housing, transportation and education. While it had wide bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, it was never called for a vote and was reintroduced in 2013 as H.R. 647 (introduced by Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-FL) and S. 313 (introduced by Sen. Robert Casey, D-PA). As of February 15, 2013, the bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Health and the Senate Subcommittee on Finance. As of right now, thanks to the hard work of many at the National Down Syndrome Society and the countless others who have pushed for Senate sponsorship of this important bill, the ABLE Act currently has 269 cosponsors in the House and 46 cosponsors in the Senate. This bipartisan, bicameral legislation is being led by Reps. Van Hollen, Crenshaw, Sessions, and McMorris Rodgers and Sens. Casey and Burr

The ABLE Act still needs your support! Contact your state Senators and ask them to cosponsor the bill – visit www.NDSS.org to see the complete list of bill cosponsors.

Making a difference only takes a minute

If you haven’t heard already, October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. This is a time where families and organizations across the country not only continue advocating for the amazing individuals with Down syndrome in their lives but amp up their efforts to spread awareness and inclusion throughout their community.

Whether you know someone with Down syndrome or you don’t, you can join the celebration of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Whether you have 1 minute or 60, there is something you can do to make a difference – and we’ve compiled a list of ways you can help with the time you have.

However you spread awareness this October, give yourself a pat on the back and know that we and our community say THANKS!